After signing 29 players last season, Nottingham Forest are yet to make any moves in the market this summer. But with an eye on quality over quantity — and a need to move some players on — it’s beginning to shape up into an interesting transfer window
It’s that time again. Social media is alight with wannabes cut-and-pasting transfer rumours from less-than-trustworthy accounts, fans are predicting great things — or terrible things — for the season ahead, and some people are just enjoying the summer… you know, life beyond football: Wimbledon, Tour de France, festivals, holidays.
But no, we haven’t signed anyone yet. (Well, we might have done but even the experts can’t agree.) And though we may have signed 29 players last season, we had actually only signed seven of them by 15 July last summer. Which is probably one more than we need by the time the transfer window closes on 1 September.
For starters: a goalkeeper (Dean Henderson?); a left-back (not Renan Lodi, who is heading to Marseille for Champions League football); a centre-back (rumours are slow); a midfielder (Ibrahim Sangaré please); a left-sided attacking player of some descript (Willian?) and a striker (take your pick). We might need another?
But that bloated squad does need addressing. For while Chelsea, who also splashed the cash last season — about half a billion, if you’d forgotten — are offloading players for hefty amounts left, right and centre, we have yet to reduce our squad. At least for any money
A handful were out of contract (Cafu, Colback, Lingard, Smith, Taylor, Ayew) and although Harry Arter’s Bomb Squad (yes, he’s here for another year) has dwindling numbers — talk of offloading Jonjo Shelvey has yet to become reality — there are plenty who need moving on.
Not that I’d argue any of the 29 signings are bad players. At least not in the same category as the worst of the Championship years — Rafik Djebbour, Kevin Gomes, Adama Diakhaby, Nicolao Dumitru…
We obviously didn’t need all of the new signings, but at the same time those endless injuries caused endless problems. Most of the new faces in January were as a direct result of missing players. And obviously it took Steve Cooper several shuffles of the pack to figure out how to utilise his options. New players take a while to adapt — some longer than others — and hopefully many of last season’s problems are behind us; especially with a new fitness coach.
In defence, the switch from a back three to a back four saw Serge Aurier emerge as an unexpected crowd favourite. Neco Williams is still a talent with much to come. And Omar Richards will be like a new signing, albeit probably not a first-choice left-back to begin with. (Harry Toffolo’s possible ban is another whole other topic.)
Steve Cook, like Cafu before him, had exactly the right attitude and was a key dressing room presence — much like, Jesse Lingard who was worth the risk of a short-term outlay. And even though Felipe seemed unnecessary at the time, he proved to be an immense figure at the back and, with further injuries, a key signing. The return of Moussa Niakhaté showed what we’d missed.
The midfield trio of Danilo, Orel Mangala and Ryan Yates all earned their place over the season. Remo Freuler showed his class at times, but it sounds like he might be off. Cheikhou Kouyaté added some steel. Lewis O’Brien deserves a chance, we’ve seen enough to know he’s a tidy, effective midfielder. And we haven’t seen enough of Gustavo Scarpa but hopefully we will.
Emmanuel Dennis showed glimpses of his talent but he’s probably not a fit for Cooper’s way of playing. And Chris Wood is a proven striker… but what next for him?
And then there’s all the rest. If we’d been relegated it would be a different story. Maybe some might still get a chance, but just seven are allowed to go out on loan this season from Jonathan Panzo, Ethan Horvath, Josh Bowler, Hwang Ui-jo, Loïc Mbe Soh, Braian Ojeda, Richie Laryea, Sam Surridge, Alex Mighten, Tyrese Fornah, Mohamed Dräger and Brandon Aguilera.
And given that Williams, Johnson and Danilo are now over 21, that squad really needs whittling down. It’s going to be brutal one way or another. Presuming Henderson eventually arrives, this is a 25-man squad with no other new additions:
At least 10 of the fringe names need permanent moves, otherwise they’ll be sat playing cards with Arter. And while we’re not in the business of selling our best players just yet — presumably it will happen in summers to come — we’re going to need some income as well as a reduction in wages.
That aside, new signings will give us a glimpse of how next season will begin to look. The first XI was picking itself at the end of last season, so we finally had a sense of a settled side.
Cooper has admitted he doesn’t want to play how we did for much of 2022/23 — in reality, who does? — so our possession is going to increase, even if it remains less than 50%. The difference between the Championship and the Premier League is still a leap we’re coming to terms with.
Survival remains the goal this season, you can’t run before you can walk — and let’s be honest, we couldn’t even walk in some games. But to build and grow and to be true to ourselves is exactly the ethos that Cooper will have. And while there has been much change in the past 12 months, much of it has been for the better.
It’s very evident what happens when you have no foundations, as several Premier League clubs found out last season. We still have a way to go, but quality over quantity this summer should make this squad a different proposition as we grow for the future. The exciting, attacking football we know we’re capable of is something to behold when the likes of Gibbs-White, Awoniyi, Johnson and Danilo are in full flight. They just need the building blocks behind them.